Food story (Kosher)
Being a food writer means the odd invitation may come your way, and I was lucky enough recently to be invited to a very special lunch. Food Story, the UK’s newest kosher caterer, hosted a tasting event at Claridge’s to showcase some of its new dishes. So it was off with the tracksuit and trainers, on with the dress and heels, out of the door and off to London’s premier hotel. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Perfectly-chilled champagne and lemon and sumac non-alcoholic cocktails accompanied a beautifully-presented and innovative range of canapés: zucchini rolls with crushed edamame and mint, duck latkes with blood-orange gel, beef carpaccio with truffle, a miniature steak sandwich with mustard mayonnaise and, my favourite, ‘fruit pastel’ skewers with lemon balm and violet fragments – an explosion of sweetness.
Fifty journalists and bloggers were seated at an on-trend long table (round tables are so last year), dressed with contemporary woven linen and artistically enhanced with blooms by resident Claridge’s florist McQueens.
Then we were walked through four ‘Acts’ of the most refined kosher cooking: a light, soft sole with sauce vierge and basil; tender lamb with a hint of smokiness from blackened aubergine, nicely balanced with a creamy tahini; sea bass with Israeli couscous and lemon purée; and then, to finish, s’mores with banana purée and marshmallow.
The dream team behind Food Story comprises chef David Swann, formerly of Gordon Ramsay and the Fat Duck, and managing director Matt Rickard, formerly of the Mandarin Oriental.
Newish place in town
It’s common for restaurants to open up, become established, and then start offering takeaway. It’s unusual for things to happen the other way round – but that’s exactly the state of play at Pan-Asian restaurant Tootoomoo in Islington. Owner Philip McGuinness had the genius idea of shoving the kitchen downstairs in the basement and opening up the ground floor space into a cosy, quirky restaurant with rustic yet colourful décor and room enough for 24 covers.
It’s one of those “big, little” places – big personality, little restaurant; big flavours, little menu; big satisfaction, little bill.
A range of £3 to £6.50 dishes includes yuzu salmon maki, veggie potstickers (like a gyoza, but shaped like samosas and even more tasty), a delicious sweet and savoury seaweed salad with sesame dressing (standout dish for me), a classic duck and watermelon salad with cashews and hoisin, a stunning rendang curry with meltingly tender beef, and oh-so-moreish Singapore noodles with chicken.
To quench your thirst, £7 fetches you a classic Caipirinha cocktail or the house special Tootoomojito, among others, plus there are spirits, beers and wine.
Dessert is frozen yoghurt – it’s just the right finale to this type of feast, and, if you’re feeling decadent, you can top it with Oreos or chocolate.
Tootoomoo is slowly expanding across north London, with branches in Crouch End, Whetstone and now Islington, plus a takeaway in Highgate.
The Whetstone branch has just doubled in size and can now seat around 80 in more space and comfort (and less noise!) than before, with the option for private hire for parties.
Takeaway is a big story at Tootoomoo and if you’re lucky enough to live in a relevant postcode, even the cocktails can be delivered to your door – in cute jam jars, no less!
278 St Paul’s Road, Islington, London, N1 2LH
On the side
A Slice of Italy
Acclaimed chef Theo Randall has opened a casual Italian restaurant in the boutique Hotel Indigo in Kensington. Theo’s Simple Italian serves rustic Italian dishes that celebrate the best of casual dining. The 54-seat restaurant is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expect a great range of cicchetti, plus expertly-cooked pasta and a range of meaty/fishy dishes. Weekend brunch is £35 a head, including a glass of Prosecco. theossimpleitalian.co.uk
Crispy and Saucy
A restaurant specialising in crisps (yes, really!) is opening in Soho. Hipchips will be cooking crisps from five varieties of potato, all grown in the north of England, and serving them on a conveyor belt, together with special dips. Head chef Scott Davis has spent two years developing the concept in his kitchen. The sauces range from smoky cheese fondue to dessert options such as s’mores and chocolate.
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